Skip to main content

kolesnikov9_SefaKaracanAnadoluAgencyGettyImages_protestersholdingrussianflag Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

What Are Russians Protesting About?

Recent demonstrations in Russia have not been led by a particular group or movement with grand political designs. Instead, protesters in Arkhangelsk – much like those in Yekaterinburg and even in Moscow – are simply people fighting for their government, finally, to treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve.

MOSCOW – Former finance minister Alexei Kudrin, now Chair of Russia’s Accounts Chamber, has warned that the country risks an “explosion” of protests caused by declining living standards and widespread poverty. He is wrong.

Kudrin is widely viewed as a standard-bearer for the cadre of liberal technocrats working within Russian President Vladimir Putin’s illiberal system, and his words carry significant weight among liberal-minded observers. But, in assessing today’s social unrest in Russia, Kudrin is confusing economic frustration with something much more fundamental: the struggle for dignity.

Of course, Russians do have serious economic grievances. The decline in real household income – which Kudrin cited as a major contributor to public frustration – has been consistent since 2014, when Putin made the costly decision illegally to annex Crimea from Ukraine. Unsurprisingly, private consumption has been weak. And last year, when the government implemented drastic pension reforms – which, among other things, raised the retirement age by five years – popular protests were formidable enough to force Putin not only to defend the policy publicly, but also to make some concessions.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/XhMQRYN;
  1. GettyImages-1185850541 Scott Peterson/Getty Images

    Power to the People?

    Aryeh Neier

    From Beirut to Hong Kong to Santiago, governments are eager to bring an end to mass demonstrations. But, in the absence of greater institutional responsiveness to popular grievances and demands, people are unlikely to stay home.

    1
  2. rogoff187_Matt Anderson Photography Getty Images_datanumberlines Matt Anderson Photography/Getty Images

    The High Stakes of the Coming Digital Currency War

    Kenneth Rogoff

    Just as technology has disrupted media, politics, and business, it is on the verge of disrupting America’s ability to leverage faith in its currency to pursue its broader national interests. The real challenge for the United States isn't Facebook's proposed Libra; it's government-backed digital currencies like the one planned by China.

    0

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions